Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Force Awakens

Even Buddy is excited about the Force awakening tomorrow:

We will be finishing re-watching Episode 6 tonight. That is all.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Life List

We have been so busy living life that I haven't made time to write. I've been mentally making a list of all the wonderful I want to capture, though, so a life list:

1. We had friends over to celebrate Christmas Friday. Brad and Mom are doing turducken for Christmas, and we attempted just the ducken part. We learned that the tur is really critical for holding it all together! Issa captured this video:

video


I love how we laugh in our home, and I love having friends that are family.

2. Issa had her Company Christmas party Sunday. This year, the girls made headbands and chemo bags to donate in their teachers' names as their gifts. The girls worked so hard on the projects, and I loved listening to them chatter over lunch.

3. I'm crafting Christmas gifts life there is no tomorrow. I love it!

4. In a bizarro world twist, I'm headed to a work retreat today while Brad chaperones Issa's field trip. I really don't know who is more excited.

5. I volunteered in first grade yesterday afternoon. It's the week before Christmas. There are no words.

6. I had one of those absurdly proud moments last night. Issa asked to skip knitting. We have been go go going, and she decided she really just wanted to spend some time snuggled up as a family. I wish I had learned at 9 that sometimes it's okay to just stay home and say no thank you to something. It was lovely.

7. I have been stoning dance costumes. A gross and a half on one costume. That's over 200 stones for those of you playing along at home.

8. My family has been texting like no tomorrow. Planning for Christmas celebrations. Counting down to being together. It makes me smile.

9.  We are counting down to Star Wars and the Nutcracker. We are giddy.

10. The laundry is piling up and I just can't bring myself to care.

11. In the midst of all of this, I'm happy. I love this time of year. I love the magic and the laughter. I love seeing the kids' faces when they find Buddy. I love the music and the excuse to snuggle up with cocoa. And I love that our family chooses to celebrate this way.



Thursday, December 10, 2015

Doing Life

I almost didn't post today. Nothing noteworthy happened yesterday. The kids had good days at school. Brad and I crossed a lot off our respective to do lists at work. I stoned some dance costumes and addressed Christmas cards. Brad cooked dinner and took Evan to the dojo. It was a pretty typical Wednesday. Nothing momentous to write about.

But in the light of all the headlines and Facebook rants and countless memes about being stressed, maybe a typical Wednesday is something to write about. It's easy to get caught up in all the chaos. The doom and gloom. But I'm refusing. There is still so much good. So much normal.

I keep saying, "Not my circus; not my monkeys," about a lot these days; I'm really trying to focus on what matters and truly practicing what I preach. After all, I have some not so little eyes watching. Issa and I just had a conversation this morning about staying in your own lane, which is sometimes a little wider than at other times. Fighting your battles. Practicing kindness and speaking out when it matters--with kindness and conviction--because sometimes they are our monkeys. Maybe, just maybe, if we could all focus on the monkeys that really matter as we are doing this life the world would be a better place.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

I Love Him

Last night, Brad and I snuggled up to binge watch a very non-Christmas-y series we're in the middle of, although we did accompany said watching with eggnog. This was after he listened to me vent about a grant project that could very well be the end of me and took me out for a date lunch between commitments at school. It wasn't an extraordinary day, but it was so lovely.

After more than half of our lifetimes together, I love that we still truly love being together. I love that he can see me throw a tantrum and just tell me I need to eat. I love that he makes sure I don't get too caught up in making Christmas magic that I get exhausted.

In short, I love him.

Monday, December 7, 2015

A Very Holly Jolly Weekend

This weekend was lovely. Friday night, we had a much needed cocoa and cuddles night. Daddy had been gone all week, and we had been going at warp speed. We turned down a few invitations and snuggled in to eat spaghetti, watch a Christmas movie, and sip cocoa all cuddled up on the couch.

Saturday morning, Issa had a crazy dance rehearsal and then a birthday party. Late afternoon, though, we all headed out for the town's Christmas parade. This was the first year Issa was big enough to dance in the parade instead of riding, and it was really odd for me to drop her off and not get on the float with her. It was also a very big day for our girl: she got to change her earrings for the first time!
It was so fun to see the parade from the other side. I love small town parades with the marching bands, church floats, and random people riding on the back of cars. Issa had so much fun dancing the route, too.

Sunday, I had intentionally blocked the entire day on the calendar. We decorated our tree, watched too many Christmas movies, and took high quality naps. We are going in to this week happy and rested and ready to keep celebrating.

Friday, December 4, 2015

And So It Continues

I think my family has a little bit of North Pole Elf blood in our veins. We all love all things Christmas, and that seems to have been passed down. This is how Issa went to school today:
I love it. I love her!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Buddy is Back!

When we returned from Thanksgiving, Buddy was waiting. Here is why I love our elf:
He keeps us focused on what is really important: the real reason for Christmas, family, friends, and finding joy. Admittedly, he had a bit of a lame arrival, simply perching in fruit bowl with a sign saying he was back.

Monday morning, though, he drew on the mirror so the kids looked like Rudolph when they brushed their teeth. Tuesday morning, he left us elf meal passes, so we had fruit pie and cocoa for dinner--it was very joyful. Wednesday, he left us empty treat boxes so we could bake cookies for all of our wonderful neighbors, and the kids had great fun delivering all 8 dozen cookies yesterday! (We were baking fools on our early release.) This morning, he left us a new book to keep us focused--and it is even told with Lego characters.

We do love this little elf, and I'm awfully glad Daddy finally told Santa we could have one.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

When Things Aren't Things

This summer, we went through a major house purge. We got rid of a lot of "things." If we didn't use it, if it wasn't functional, or if it didn't bring us joy, it went. "It's just things" became our mantra. Since, we have been trying to be really intentional about what we bring into our home. Less really is more.

Except, sometimes things aren't just things. When we were in Napoleon, Mom offered to let us go through some of the Christmas things that had belonged to Grandma. Grandma loved Christmas, and I have to believe that in her corner of Heaven she gets to decorate a tree every day. She also loved Christmas singing toys, and I seem to have caught the bug. Before we even started looking, I mentioned that the one toy I would really like was a Santa riding Rudolph. It is probably one of the oldest, and it's not even that exciting, but for some reason it's always the one that comes to mind first. When Aunt Carol walked in with it the next day, I burst into tears. It wasn't about the things; it was about the memories. The memories of decorating with her. The memories of playing the toys over and over and over and never once being told to stop. It was the joy.

Before we came home, we sorted through some boxes and the kids helped me choose some pieces to bring home. Grandma always put up a teddy bear tree, so we were sure to bring home plenty of bears--and toys. The kids picked some that were their favorites; I chose some that I had strong memories of. And Brad, because he is the kindest husband, announced we just became a two tree family:
The kiddos helped me put this up Monday night. We named the angel bear on top Julia, after Grandma, and it brings me such joy every time I walk past. I love seeing the kids playing with the toys, and I loved watching their tiny hands tuck teddy bears into branches. I could almost see Grandma sitting by in one of her Christmas sweaters just beaming.

We work really, really hard to make sure our December is filled with joy. There is no Christmas kabobble. We say no to as many events as we say yes to. We make time to read books and watch movies and drink cocoa. It's the way I remember Christmas as a child, and I want the same for my kids. Someday, I want these things to be so much more than things to them...because they certainly are for me.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Thankful

We have so very much to be thankful for--including seeing family in Ohio last week. 

I'm very thankful for a sister who takes pictures! The weather was ridiculously gorgeous for an Ohio November, which gave us the opportunity to take a fabulous family photo outside:
 And even Evan was quite happy to take pictures in his awesome bear sweater from Aunt Shannon:
Siblings are just the best:
 And even Nana agreed to one photo:
Part of the reason Evan was actually happy to take pictures was because he negotiated this picture:
The kids love riding that four-wheeler, and it will be a sad day indeed when they outgrow it.

Daddy carved the turkey:
 But most of the day was spent talking about the Turducken he and Mom are going to do for Christmas. They have joked about it for years, and this year it is actually happening!

 Issa loved her cranberry ice:

 And Evan has decided there is nothing better than a turkey leg:
When else can you eat like a pirate at a holiday meal and not get in trouble?

We were also able to see Granddaddy while we were in Ohio! It was such a good visit, and he is now a published author! His memoirs are now officially in book form, and we were given our own autographed copy. Evan spent the rest of the visit finding his name in the book; he remembered it was there and was way too excited when he found--and he has found it many times since.

We had a great time with the cousins in Tiffin, too. Of course I took no pictures, but we loved spending time with kids who are growing up way too fast. We went to see Lileigh cheer in one of her senior season games. Alec was so excited to show us his new car (with a ridiculous sound system) since he turns 16 this week. Regan and Brad talked about so many books. Hadley turned nine months and is such a fun, happy baby. Having time to just spend with them was incredible. I'm already bracing for Christmas when the older ones want to play with Cards Against Humanity.

We drove home Sunday, and the best Daddy ever stopped on the way for a tree:
The Fire Department never disappoints! And this year's tree came complete with a pine cone. Life doesn't get any better.

We are in full holly, jolly mode, and I couldn't be happier. Let the celebrating continue!

Monday, November 23, 2015

To Williamsburg and Back Again

One of the highlights of my work year is the sophomore trip. Every year, we venture off to somewhere out of state to see schools in a different context and to soak up some culture. This year, the students chose Williamsburg and we spent Thursday through Saturday soaking up the history. I think I learned more in those days than in my entire formal schooling about colonial history.

We explored Jamestowne and learned about the Powhatan Indians and the fort there. We even were able to go aboard a replica of one the ships that landed there. We took a lantern tour of Williamsburg to learn about trades, and we ate in a tavern by candlelight, listening to tavern entertainments. We toured two incredible schools, and we kayaked down Powhatan Creek, learning about the ecosystem and spotting herons, muskrats, fish, vultures, ducks, and bald eagles.

The entire weekend was so memorable, and I'm always grateful for the time away from campus to get to know my students. It certainly was a few days well spent!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The First Gifts of Christmas

This is about the point in November when Christmas starts to sneak in. Issa's favorite radio station has switched to all Christmas all the time. Lights are starting to appear around us; the Christmas house is fully decorated. And yesterday we did our first gifts of Christmas.

Since Issa was in first grade, our first gifts are always for the Angel Tree at school. Tuesday, the kids were so excited to choose their ornaments. Evan chose a bow and arrow toy for a boy his age. Issa chose skinny jeans for a girl her age. I chose two of the socks and underwear ornaments for Brad and I--both for kids our kids' ages; they just seemed like good Mom and Dad choices. We chose the gifts yesterday, and Issa and I wrapped them up last night while Frosty played on the television.

We use the Angel Tree to have a conversation about gratitude. About how blessed we are, and how since we have a little extra we choose ornaments. We talk about those who need are the bravest as they ask for help. And we talk about how for those who have just enough it's a time to remember how blessed they are and to see a little extra good in the world. And that's the real first gift.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Good Problems

My students organized a canned food drive for one of the schools we work with routinely. It was a blitz drive to meet a high need before Thanksgiving. I was worried about the short window and the fact that we're asking college kids to dig deep at the end of the semester. They did all of the work, the emailing, the reminding. I sat back and watched.

I just spent the morning breaking up the huge boxes that were full into littler boxes I can hope to move. In just two weeks, these girls collected six paper cases totaling over 150 pieces of food for these families. I couldn't be more proud.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Good Kids

Last night was one of those nights when I was poignantly reminded that I have good kids and that maybe we are doing something right in this parenting gig--which is especially good since this morning was not stellar. (Cue me blurting, "Just shove some turkey in your mouth and stop irritating each other!" And yes...I fed the kids turkey, yeast rolls, and cranberry ice for breakfast. It's what they wanted and I had no good reason to say no.)

But I digress...last night...

Last night was crazy. Issa had dance, I had a school improvement team meeting, and Evan was rescued from hanging out in the back of the meeting by a friend who invited him over. That meant that by the time I finished my meeting and gathered the children we walked through the door about 6:45. Evan had already eaten, and left-overs were in Issa and I's future. As I started warming up dinner, Issa made her brother a cup of hot cocoa, and then it happened. They both sat down at the kitchen table. I expected Issa to, but since Evan had eaten with a friend I fully expected him to go play. But he didn't. He sat. I asked what he was doing, and his response made me tear up: "It's dinner time. I want to hear about everybody's days." Be still my heart. He sipped his cocoa while we ate, and needless to say that moment was the highlight of my day when it was my turn to share.

I'm always grateful for those moments that make me feel like we're doing something right. So much of parenting is building the plane while you're flying it, but maybe that lack of a master plan is working out just fine.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Thankful

 This weekend, we celebrated our North Carolina Thanksgiving. The kids and I started cooking Friday, and for the first time our meal included cranberry ice, which is a hallmark of our family holidays in Napoleon. Mom sent me the recipe, complete with her one note, and then I spent most of the evening texting back and forth about everything that is not actually in the recipe:
 We were so fortunate to be able to start with cranberries from the Produce Box:
But the recipe should really mention that they explode rather than pop. Evan found the cranberries shooting across the kitchen hysterical. Next time we will use a larger pot! My heart melted when I explained that Grandma Luzny used to make this, and now Nana makes it, and now I'm learning to make it, and Issa announced, "And someday I'll make it!" Yes, love, you will.

Saturday morning, the kids and I headed to the farm. It was the last open day of the season, and we spent the morning caring for chicks (which delighted the kiddos), rounding up loose livestock, taking down some shade tents, and planting garlic and cover crops. We stayed nearly an hour later than usual, but it was such a perfect morning on the farm we didn't mind. Even corralling steers was fun, although I have an ugly bruise on my hip from Big Red who was being stubborn and head butted me. We came home with loads of sweet potatoes--some of which we mashed for the feast--and two butterkin pumpkins. Coupled with the two I ordered from the Produce Box, that gave us a total of four pumpkins to roast and puree:
Thankfully it freezes beautifully. Once we started making our own last year, though, canned pumpkin just won't do.

We also prepped the turkey Saturday night. I have become a huge fan of dry brining, which means the turkey sits in the roaster in our refrigerator over night. Evan spent most of the evening and following morning opening the refrigerator and remarking, "Boy, that sure is one big chicken." That kid sure know hows to get under his sister's skin; every time she would shout, "IT IS A TURKEY! And it is very big." I always buy a bird that is too big for the occasion, and as I was trying to justify it this year as having to account for the bones Brad pointed out bird bones are hollow. We have left-overs.

Sunday morning, the preparations were in full swing. We started by making the pumpkin pie, and then we made Mama Fisher's yeast rolls. Her recipe really is the best, and every time I make them I see her standing in her kitchen mixing the flour in by hand when Tay and I would go to her house to escape campus. Mama Fish, I use a mixer; I'm sorry. They are still delicious. 

I got the stock going for gravy, and then it was all crafting hands on deck. Issa had checked out a Thanksgiving craft book at the library, and we replaced our very ordinary bread basket with this beauty:
It was so fun crafting with her!

We used the good china and genuinely enjoyed a Thanksgiving meal. We will be eating leftovers all week, and I'm making some deliveries to friends today. All of the preparation is so worth it, though. I love being in the kitchen with the kiddos, and I love that we extend the gratitude a bit by celebrating here, too. After all, we have so very much to be grateful for.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Sick

So...welcome home to me. Just as Issa and I were walking into school yesterday, she got sick. She spent the next two hours being violently ill, and the rest of the day nibbling and sleeping. She is home again today just because she has zero energy, so we will spend the day nibbling and sipping and I'm sure she will be well tomorrow. Unfortunately, I seem to be starting in with it this morning.

The beauty is, however, I have incredible students. Yesterday, we had committee meetings. I was frantically texting and emailing so they could continue without me, and my leadership team demonstrated that they really don't need me. They ran the meetings, sent me updates, and remembered a couple of things I forgot. They are awesome. Several texted throughout the day to check on Issa.

This morning, I emailed to cancel my class. I've already had to offers two bring me soup or come watch the kids. I've declined, but I mean really. How awesome is that?

Monday, November 9, 2015

All That Glitters

For the first time in our adult lives, Mom, Shannon, and I met up for a girls' weekend! We all converged in Chicago, which was the perfect time to see Shannon's new home.

Mom and I both had rough landings and cab rides (note to self: never land during rush hour), so we ditched our dinner reservation and settled into Shannon's place for Chicago deep dish. It was a great way to start the rest of our very glittery weekend.

After a lovely breakfast at the hotel, we went to a studio to try our hand at glass blowing:
 We each made a bowl, and it was honestly one of the coolest things I have ever done. Our artist made us feel like we totally did it ourselves, which demonstrates his skill way more than ours!

We had brunch at a really cute non-profit that provides job training and placements for some of the homeless in Chicago. The food was incredible, and it was nice to support a great cause in the process.

From there, we explored the conservatory, which was also hosting a glass exhibit:
 And we managed to snag a selfie:
We spent the rest of the day exploring Eataly, enjoying some girl time, and then having an incredible Peruvian dinner. Sunday, we had another fun brunch and then curled up by the fireplace for a little more girl talk before I had to head home.

It was the perfect mix of doing and being, and it was so good to have a little grown-up time with two of my favorite people.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

There Is a Rat

So...Buddy appeared on Halloween morning riding a very pitiful furry rat--you know the kind you might see on clearance for about $1.

That rat is bringing raucous laughter to our home. Buddy clearly forgot that I don't like rats--like not at all. My children, however, remember. And once Buddy left and left the rat behind to add to the Halloween decor, the rat has been highly mobile. It showed up in my knitting basket and I want all the mom points in the world for only screaming and not saying the words that were running through my head. Evan's laughter at that moment: priceless. The rat has appeared next to breakfast plates, in the library basket, under my pillow, and is currently hiding in Evan's candy basket. I'm hoping he screams...or at least laughs hysterically again.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Family Dinners

I spend a lot of time--maybe too much time--thinking about my children's story books. Not the ones on our shelves. The ones they will replay in their minds and for their own children someday. The story of their childhoods. It's why traditions and celebrations are so important to me.

Last night, though, I was reminded of all of the pages that blend together into very important pages--like a page about family dinners. So far, we have been very lucky that we all sit down to dinner together. Sometimes we don't eat until 7:30 and the kids are already in pajamas, but we sit around a table and talk. Some days the conversation is heavy--friendships, giving back, questions without answers. Most nights, though, conversation is pretty ordinary. The best and worsts of the days. Funny things friends said. Plans for the weekend.

Last night, we all sat down around the table for pancakes. Nothing fancy. I know we were laughing, but I can't remember about what. And when I asked what the best part of everyone's day was, it was unanimously that moment. Eating dinner together.

Sometimes, it's good to be reminded that the ordinary is anything but ordinary. Maybe it's in those every day moments that the true magic of family happens, and that is definitely worth a page in the storybook.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Happy Halloween!

 Well...our Halloween basically broke every tradition we have, but it was fun in a completely new way.

The only thing I'm not completely over is that we did not carve pumpkins. We picked out pumpkins in the mountains, and they are beautifully sitting on the porch. The kids just had zero carving interest. Issa announced she likes the way they look whole, and I'm almost okay with it. Almost.

I also did not make the traditional pre-trick-or-treat potato soup. The neighborhood decided to do a group pizza party instead. I did manage to snap a few pictures on the way. Meet Maleficent:
 And an army ninja (also known as Mr. Griffen from the dojo):
 They were too excited to go to get a picture together, and frankly it took a threat of not going at all to get that one of Evan. And who can blame them:
 Look at all those cute kiddos:
I did manage to take one horrible picture of them together:
It made me very grateful for this one of the night the costumes arrived:
 Please note Evan's mask never made it out the front door.

We did have a lot of fun with the neighbors, and trick-or-treat never disappoints. I'm estimating I saw about 600 kiddos. The highlight of my evening, though, was watching the toddler puppy dance and giggle on my sidewalk over our light-up eyes in the bushes. It was awesome.

We did have the traditional post candy sort, hot cocoa, and Charlie Brown, so not all tradition was lost. And by all accounts it was another treat of a Halloween.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Only My Job...

Some days, I am so tired. Today is one of them. I really could have used about ten more hours of sleep. And a day in the house alone to do laundry and dishes and just tidy. It's a little scary around that place and it's not from Halloween decorations.

But...even when I'm exhausted from it, I just love my job. It's the hardest, most holy work. I've had two days this week where I have been home less than 10 hours before I'm on my way back. I'll be here all day Sunday. I'm struggling to not let my emotional tank run completely empty. But I can't imagine being any where else.

I spent last night in a room with 50 educators. Half of those were my students; the other half are veterans who are willing to serve as mentors for the next two years. I was so proud of how articulate and thoughtful my students were, and I love that the mentors were impressed and recognized that they are really cool people, too. It's good when you can laugh together.

This morning, I was able to go see a new school that has a lot of great things happening. I celebrated with them starting at 7:45 am. I saw itty bitties so excited to learn, and teachers who were bringing their best to them.

I am in the unique position to see the full circle of teaching every day. I see my students just venturing into the professing. I see K-12 students in schools with classroom teachers doing the hard work of teaching. I get to work with students from kindergarten to seniors in college. I see the whole pathway. And on really, really good days, I get an email or a visit from a former student who is now in the classroom. Full circle.

It's the full circle that leaves me both exhausted and energized. The hardest most holy work.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Giddy

I am very much a one holiday at a time kind of girl. However, I broke my own rules yesterday for a very good reason!

For the past couple years, we have taken the kids to see a holiday show. Every year, I pitch Nutcracker and get vetoed. This year, though, the whole family chose Nutcracker! I'm ridiculously excited! And yesterday, I got fabulous seats on sale for the Saturday that we always do our little Christmas. It just doesn't get better than that!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Love Notes

I have super cool kids. I truly love their quirky little selves and the way they never cease to surprise me. Issa's latest: love notes.

Monday was brutal for me, and if I'm honest yesterday wasn't terribly better. Halloween, a full moon, registration, and Cornhuskin' makes for a deadly perfect storm at work. By Monday night, I was toast. And then I found this tucked into my jewelry tree:
Cue the tears. And the laughter. I mean really. I love her.

Last night, I found another note under my pillow. This one included the line, "because we go together like peanut butter and jelly on a sandwich." That line is even more classic because Issa won't touch a peanut butter and jelly sandwich--or any sandwich for that matter.

I have to admit, I'll be a little sad if I don't find a note somewhere tonight.

Monday, October 26, 2015

To the Mountains

We had a blissful weekend in the mountains. Brad and I did a little work Friday morning, but the kids had the day off. So, as soon as we could we headed west! We were in Asheville in time for a late lunch, and we found ourselves at Bouchon Creperie, which was incredible. The weather was perfect for eating out on the patio, and Brad and I were so grateful to have children who are not picky eaters. It just opens up so many fun options in Asheville. 

After lunch, we made a detour through a used bookshop, where Issa found a favorite from the library to add to her collections, Daddy found a fun book I won't pretend I can describe, and Evan took a chance on one of their mystery books. It was wrapped in brown paper with a few clues written on the front, and he was quite thrilled to discover he was correct and scored a fun pirate book.

From there, we headed straight to our first orchard:
 Sky Top is quite literally perched on the side of the mountain, and the views were incredible:
 The leaves were at their peak this weekend, and the orchard smelled so sweet. The kids also loved apple picking:
 My favorite:
 Did I mention the views:
 After we had picked too many apples, we took a tractor ride around the orchard. While I should have snapped some views, I did snap this selfie:
 We visited the orchard critters:


 And enjoyed the view of the pond:
 Before getting lost in their bamboo forest:
 We ended our visit with hot apple cider donuts and cider slushies before checking into our hotel. We managed to keep the kids awake for dinner, which helped them rally for an evening swim!

Saturday got off to a sideways start. The plan was to go to our favorite biscuit place, but the line was out the door and there was no parking to be found--anywhere--at any breakfast place. Cue the driving all over the mountains to try to find something and Issa getting car sick. Happy birthday, Daddy.

New plan: Donuts and hot cider at the next orchard. Stepp's was a very different orchard but equally fun! The weather was much more fall like, and the hot cider was especially welcome. We were so excited both orchards had growth charts since our pumpkin patch closed:

 Once tummies were full and everyone was happy again, the kiddos couldn't wait to try the apple cannon:

 It was super impressive. We then ventured through the five acre corn maze before picking apples and pumpkins:
 We found a new apple, Staymans, that we all really love! Which is good, because we brought home a peck of Asian pears and three pecks of apples! The best part of Stepp's was that it had a lot more apples that were easy for the kiddos to pick!

We ended our trip with a BBQ lunch. We were home for dinner on Saturday, which left us Sunday to settle back in. We did take Daddy out to one more birthday lunch before doing all the glamorous things like grocery shopping. We ended up having cheeses, crackers, and apples for dinner, along with an old childhood favorite:
Nothing beats warm, fresh red applesauce. And as I'm typing apple butter is going in the crockpot. A very lovely fall weekend indeed.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

475 Pennies

I counted 475 pennies at the book fair. A child bought her book with a gallon bag of pennies. That is all.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Retail is Not For Me

I really try to help at the kids' school. When email requests for help go out, if at all possible I do something. This morning, though, I might have found my Achilles heel: retail.

This week is the book fair, and they asked for parent help. In the past, I have blissfully been assigned the job of helping children find just the perfect book. I often think this will be my retirement job. This morning, however, I was assigned a cash register. I am not good at it. All the scanning and the buttons that must be pushed in just the right order or bad things happen. And then the children with the ziplock bags of coins that must be counted and then sorted in the right little bins. And all of this must be done quickly because of the line. I. Just. Can't.

Except I have to tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Sparkly

We are on the tale end of our accreditation visit, and all is going well and most importantly almost over. My only regret is that I didn't get to post a very important update yesterday. Check out the new sparkly:
A little over a week ago, Issa came down and announced she wanted her ears pierced. She had our permission years ago when she started Company, but she has been absolutely opposed. We had a long conversation about why and if she was sure, and the bottom line is she was very disappointed in the selection of clip earrings and really wanted to open whole new accessory worlds. Now also happens to be perfect timing because her ears have plenty of time to heal before the first time she needs to wear Company earrings.

So...on Saturday the whole family set off to Claire's. Originally, she wanted it to be a girl date, but as it got closer she realized she really wanted to hold Daddy's hand. We had talked about the pinch and the sound of the gun--just the way I remembered when I got mine done--and she was so sure she was ready. She never once faltered all week. She was nervous on the way in, but she was committed. The only hard part for her was picking out her starters--eight weeks is a long time to commit to an accessory. Ultimately, she chose these because "diamonds go with everything." If nothing else, I have succeeded as a mother for that alone.

She hopped up in the chair, and both Brad and I were so impressed with Claire's. These people know what they are doing. The sterilizing process made Brad quite happy, and I loved the way they talked with Issa about her responsibility. I also loved that when they were ready to start they told her they were going to do one and then the other immediately because you have to clean them within 30 seconds.

Here's the deal: Issa didn't even flinch. And that noise that I remember being the worst part--it's gone. They now have single use piercers that have no sound. And I realize I'm sounding like one of those old ladies that walked uphill to school both ways in year-round snow, but seriously this was no big.

Issa picked out some earrings for the first change--crystal snowflakes since it will be December--and an Eiffel Tower earring and jewelry organizer. It's about that point that Brad and I realized we are entering a whole new world with this one. (Side note: It did not help that we had watched Inside Out Friday night.) She spent a not insignificant amount of time organizing jewelry the rest of the afternoon. She also has her ear cleaning chart taped to the bathroom wall with a big red X on the day she can change them.

She is growing up, and I must admit I really love her new sparklies.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Thankful

I would just like to go on record as stating that I have the absolute best husband in the world. I'm in an absolute buzz saw at work right now, and he has picked up the reins at home, taken care of me, and kept us from having to drip dry after showers. I would be lost without him. Love you, babe.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

And So I Did

I work in a field where Spanish would be helpful. My French is just not particularly useful since I stopped formally studying literature, but I will be forever grateful I had it when writing my undergrad thesis. Now, though, I meet families all the time whose first language is Spanish, and I have often wished I could speak their language. My heart just breaks for the mamas who drop their babies off and can't tell the teachers everything they want to. I hate not being able to comfort a crying kiddo with the words their mama uses. But I've never done anything about it.

Now, Issa has a little friend who is fully bilingual, but her parents speak far more Spanish than English. When we talk, my five words of Spanish and their ten of English lead to lots of nodding and smiling and not much else. I hate it.

So...I did something. Last night, I started learning Spanish. I have now added about 20 words to my vocabulary, none of which will let me have a full conversation--unless we want to get drunk. I can now drink wine and beer in Spanish. But...it is a start. And I'm committed. Vamonos!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Coastal Carolina

I mentioned last week that Issa had her first big project of the year: a Coastal Carolina Float. Yesterday was the big presentation:
She had to get at least ten key symbols of the region on her float, but she managed to squeeze in 11. Please notice the Swedish fish to represent the fishing trade. Also, the fabric around the bottom is in fact the ruffle from a some Ariel pajamas she wore when she was three. She made me save them in the fabric basket and was quite thrilled to gloat when they were the perfect ocean for her float. Being a pack rat pays off again!

Her presentation:
video
I just couldn't be more proud of this girl!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Beauty

Every Monday I get to watch this:
Issa has her solo lesson with Ms. Lauren, and I get to watch the two of them work and dance together. Yesterday, it literally took my breath away. Lauren has challenged Issa in new ways this year, and I feel like I am watching her getting stronger and more graceful every week. Lauren is a beautiful dancer, and to see Issa beside her is almost more than my heart can handle. And then I see Issa beam, and I hear them laugh, and somehow everything seems perfectly right in that moment.

I've said it before, but I will be forever grateful for this place Issa considers her second home. She is challenged and loved fiercely. It is a thing of beauty to watch the way she is growing and the dancer--the person--she is becoming.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Fall Fun

This weekend was all about fall fun.

Friday, Issa had a friend over to paint a pumpkin for the school media center. They were invited to create their favorite book characters, and these two were hysterical:
 While they were creating, I got lots of snuggles with a boy who was not tired:
 Meet Frankie from Monster High:
 Saturday, it was chilly but the kids and I were able to actually go to the farm. It has been raining so much we haven't been in forever. They had fun harvesting sweet potatoes while I helped plant fall crops.  We also got to catch a pig, a goat, and a cow since the storms damaged our fences a bit.

We picked Daddy up at the airport that afternoon, and then headed to Ryan and Felicia's for dinner. The kids spent the night, and Brad and I went back Sunday to make brunch. It so fun to have friends that love cooking and food as much as we do!

The rest of yesterday was spent being cozy. Even Nuzzle created a cozy spot:
We did venture out to the River Walk for a bit. We took Neela and just enjoyed the leaves starting to turn and the chill in the air!

Have I mentioned this is my favorite time of year?